Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Young Manager's Old-School Views 
On Success In Sports And Life
By Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins

OVERVIEW: The Matheny Manifesto is based on a frankly worded letter Mike Matheny wrote to the parents of a Little League team he coached. The letter was a cry for change that became an Internet sensation and eventually a "manifesto." In the book he builds on the letter by first diagnosing the problem at the heart of youth sports— hint: it starts with parents and coaches—and then by offering a hopeful path forward. Along the way, he uses stories from his small-town childhood as well as his career as a player, coach, and manger to explore eight keys to success: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.

AUTHORS: Mike Matheny played thirteen years as a catcher for four Major League teams, won four Gold Gloves, and holds the MLB record for most consecutive games witihout an error; 2015 will mark his fourth year as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Matheny led the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first three campaigns, winning the National League pennant in 2015. He and his wife, Kristin, are the parents of five and live in St. Louis.  Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of twenty New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series. His writing has appeared in time, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. He has collaborated on as-told-to autobiographies by Hank Aaron, Orel Hershiser, Walter Payton, Nolan Ryan, Mike Singletary, and Billy Graham.

MY REVIEW: This is a "must-read" book. It presents what is called an "old school" view and if that is what it is, I am old school all the way. The principals Matheny talks about in this book and lives out in his life, are sadly missing from today's society. They are desperately needed!

This book will benefit coaches, parents, young players—anybody seeking success. It is packed with winning insights and practical advice. Mike Matheny lists eight keys to success. They all are important. As a preacher, the one I liked best was FAITH. And I liked it that in his acknowledgments he wrote: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).

We are just getting into the new year (2015) but this is the best book I have read so far this year and I have already read several. It is easy to read, fun to read. And powerful!

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, February 20, 2015

The 8 Strengths You Need
To Succeed In Business And In life
By Robert Luckadoo

OVERVIEW: This book will leave you with a tear in your eye, a big southern smile in your heart, and a recharged desire to be your best and find your true purpose in life. You will be enlightened and entertained as author Robert Luckadoo's life stories tug at your heartstrings and inspire you to dig deep inside yourself to find the eight strengths you need to succeed in your personal and professional life.

AUTHOR: Robert Luckadoo has a knack for success. Whether it's in the world of NASCAR racing, collegiate fast-pitch softball or financial services, he's always found a way to win. It's no wonder that audiences find him to be such an inspiring speaker. A geophysics major with a master's in business management, Robert started his first company—a geological consulting firm—in 1989, and since then he's become something of a startup expert, starting six more businesses and growing them to maturity before selling them for profit as going concerns. Currently, he's a financial professional with Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company.

MY REVIEW: I agree with Dick Vitale, ESPN Sports Analyst who said, "Grit in Your Craw will help develop the strengths you'll need to attack the many problems you'll encounter on the road to success." This is a good book. A very good book! I recommend it to you whether you're an athlete, in financial services, a real estate or insurance salesperson or another performance-based position. This book will inspire you to do your best in everything you do.

Robert Luckadoo wanders off into theology on page three of the book and I think that is a mistake. He says that winning the lottery and a child that dies with cancer is a part of God's plan. I don't think so! I do believe that it is God's circumstantial will and that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord, but I do not believe the Scriptures teach that God plans for you to win the lottery or for a child to die with cancer. However, this does not take away the great value of the book. It just happens to be a point of disagreement that I, as a Christian minister, have with one thing that Robert believes. He certainly may be right in his view and I may be wrong.

This is a book I wish I had read when I was a teenager. These eight strengths will benefit anybody who will carefully consider them and apply them to their life. You may want to consider buying a few copies to give as gifts to your friends.

(I received this book from The Cadence Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Quick, Flavorful Paleo
Meals for Eating Well
By Pete Evans

OVERVIEW: "Ever wonder what kind of Paleo dishes an internationally acclaimed chef might prepare? Wonder no more. The Paleo Chef brilliantly combines Pete's passion for real food with his sophisticated, flavor-first approach to cooking. Best of all, the ravishing meals in these pages were designed for home cooks, making them a cinch to prepare in your own kitchen. This book is brimming with delicious inspiration, and deserves a permanent place on your counter."  —Michelle Tam, author of the New York Times bestseller Nom Nom Paleo  (From the back of the book).

AUTHOR: Pete Evans is an award-winning international chef, restaurateur, author, television presenter, adventure seeker, and father. Pete recently made his U.S. debut as host of The Moveable Feast on PBS. He has authored seven internationally successful cookbooks and has contributed to such publications as Fine Cooking magazine. As a graduate of New York's Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a health coach, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Paleo movement, Pete's mission is to revolutionize the way we eat and live.

MY REVIEW: The Paleo lifestyle is not something that someone came up with recently. It takes ideas about what made our ancestors healthy and strong survivors and adapts them to twenty-first-century life. This is a good book. It is beautifully done and it is unique. The recipes offer full flavor and are brought to life with stunning, full-color photography.

The book cover appeals to me, a "down to earth" type because Pete Evans is pictured on the cover barefooted. And then the first picture in the book is of a beautiful pork chop. But after that, I must admit that the recipes do not appeal to me until the dessert section. I grew up in Oklahoma and I have a Cracker Barrel mentality. The recipes I like best come from my favorite magazine —Southern Living. The recipes in Pete Evan's book may be delicious but I would not be classify them as comfort food.

So, do I recommend this book? Maybe not to my close friends who see food the same way I do. But for  that large group of people that are discovering the health benefits of the Paleo lifestyle and are cutting out processed, sugary foods and instead eating quality proteins and fats, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds they will love this book.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Friday, January 30, 2015

Yes, it's raining today. I know. But MOST days the sun IS shining.

So, welcome to the Valley of the Sun. We are glad you have come for the Super Bowl or whatever.

The Valley of the Sun is one great big happy metro area.

But I would like to tell you about about some of the cities that make up this big area.

Golf, hotels, spas, upscale shopping---all come to mind when Scottsdale is mentioned. The downtown area can be divided into several distinct districts. The Main Street Arts and Antiques District features a range of dining options, antique stores and art galleries. On 5th Avenue from Scottsdale Road to Goldwater Boulevard there are more than 35 dining establishments and over 80 specialty shops. This is a great place for dining and shopping. Twenty-five years ago when we moved to Scottsdale just a short distance from our new home there was nothing to the East but desert. Now it is a bustling, booming area with large hotels and spas and fantastic shopping. The Kierland shopping area is great plus there is a newer area just across the street---Scottsdale Quarter.

Glendale is one of the fastest-growing cities in Arizona. It is known mostly for the Cardinals Stadium and the Glendale Arena. But the old downtown area, divided into two sections spanning 10 blocks, gives Glendale small town charm. This weekend there is a big Chocolate Affair going on. It's too bad it's raining. That will put a little damper on it. But this is a charming little place with a lot going on.

Tempe is home to Arizona State University, the largest university in the United States. The downtown area consists mainly of ASU and the Mill Avenue District with many shops and restaurants, taverns and nightclubs. Even if you are well past your "night on the town flings" there are plenty of "grown-up" activities. Tempe has a lively cultural scene and a young attitude.

Downtown Phoenix has really changed in the last few years. It is vastly different than it was 25 years ago when we came to the area. There is probably more than 100 restaurants, 20 or more art galleries, Herberger and Orpheum theaters, Phoenix Symphony Hall, Arizona Science Center, plus Chase Field, America West Arena and the Dodge Theater. There is just too much going on to describe it all. You must go and see for yourself.

Again, we are glad you have come to visit and we hope you come back often. Just please don't come to stay. We are filling up fast!


They're gone now. Some here. Some there. Some left the church all together.

Theirs was one of the first churches in the city----pioneers.

They planted or helped start most of the other Independent Christian churches in the city.

They faithfully preached the gospel, sent foreign missionaries and did good in every way they could.

They married the young, buried the dead and encouraged one another, especially in worship.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward 
love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as
some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another---
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

They believed in following this Scripture closely and they faithfully came together on the Lord's day, primarily to WORSHIP. They believed in evangelistic outreach in any and every way as long as it was not against the Scriptures. 

But they believed the assembly was for worship as was the place where they assembled. Worship is a religious matter and so the place where they worshiped was conducive to worship. 

This body of Christians was a Christ centered,traditional, family of worshipers.

Change moved in. Not slowly, thoughtfully and with kindness and grace. But quickly and abruptly.

When the secular moved in and the traditional moved out hearts were broken, families were disrupted.

Yes, absolutely the church needs to reach out to the "nones" with the message of Christ.

But we do not need to destroy a great, old, traditional church of God in order to do it.

Wonderful churches like the one I have been describing are needed now more than ever.

These dear Christian brothers and sisters need to be allowed to meet on the Lord's Day to encourage one another until they go to meet Him or He comes to take them Home.

God bless the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


Monday, January 26, 2015

A 90-Day Improvement Plan
By John C. Maxwell

OVERVIEW: John C. Maxwell, #1 New York times bestselling author, presents his 90-day guide to improving your leadership. Whether you want to increase your influence, prepare yourself for that big promotion, or get a handle on leadership for the first time, you can trust John Maxwell to help you in the journey. Jump Start Your Leadership will give you the insight, inspiration, and instruction you need to see tangible improvement in your leadership skills in ninety days.

AUTHOR: John C. Maxwell is America's # 1 leadership authority with over twenty-four million books sold. Leadership is one of his passions. He has been on a leadership journey for over fifty years and has dedicated his life to sharing with others what he has been learning about leading.

MY REVIEW: John Maxwell has done it again. He just keeps writing excellent books about leadership. In this book he leads you through ninety days with clear steps to help you develop in key areas of leadership. He begins by reminding you to take your focus off of a job title and explore how to earn the respect and trust of your team by developing relationships. From there he helps you give more attention to how to develop the team and increase productivity. Finally, he focuses on how to share what you've learned to help the people you lead to become leaders in their own right.

No matter where you are in leadership his 90-day guide will help you improve your leadership. It will take about 15 minutes a day for 90 days to improve your leadership. If you don't have a leadership position yet, adopting the principles Maxwell offers in this book will open the leadership door in the future.

Each day begins with a great quote. Using that quote as a starting point, John Maxwell writes a brief paragraph offering his thoughts on leadership. And then space is provided for you to write a response and take action. The ninety excellent quotes are worth the price of the book. One of my favorites is: "The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." by Benjamin Disraeli. You can be ready for that opportunity by reading this book.

(I received this book from Center Street, Hachette Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

8 Undeniable Qualities Of A Winner
By Joel Osteen

OVERVIEW: "This is your time. This is your moment. Put your shoulders back. Hold your head up high. Walk with confidence. Winning is in your DNA, and it's about to come out in a greater way. You may have had some victories in the past, but you haven't seen anything yet. As you put these principles into action, you will step into a new level of your destiny. You will discover talents you didn't know you had, and you will see God's blessing and favor in amazing ways. Get ready! You can, you will." – Joel Osteen, from the Introduction.

AUTHOR: Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of America's largest church―Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His weekly services are seen by more than 10 million viewers each week in the United States, and millions more in 100 nations around the world. He is author of six #1 national bestselling books and has been named by numerous publications as one of the most influential Christian leaders in the world. He resides in Houston with his wife, Victoria, and their children.

MY REVIEW: This is a good book. It is another book by Joel Osteen that is uplifting, encouraging and will make you feel better about yourself. I do not tout Osteen as a great preacher of the gospel. I honestly do not know his doctrinal position on many matters that I consider important. I just know that he brings a message of hope. I like him, not so much as a preacher of the gospel, but as a good person with an encouraging message. He lifts you up when you are down. Regardless, there are many that do not like him or his message. I am not here to defend Osteen or his message but simply to say that I like him and this is a good book.

Osteen presents the message of this book in eight brief chapters: Keep Your Vision in Front of You, Run Your Race, Expect Good Things, Have a Positive Mind-set, Commit to Excellence, Keep Growing, Serve Others, Stay Passionate. Now for the life of me I can't find anything wrong with this message. To the contrary, I like it! So I recommend this book as one that will help you reach your potential and achieve new levels of success in your life.

(I received this book from Hackett Book Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

How Achievers & Connectors Can Build a Marriage that Lasts
By Tony Ferretti, PhD & Peter J. Weiss, MD

OVERVIEW: Using true-to-life examples, The Love Fight offers insight into this challenging relationship dynamic and practical tools to heal, nurture, and grow your marriage.
     *Discover the common personality traits behind the succeed-at-work/
       fail-at-home syndrome.
     *Understand your spouse, and yourself, better.
     *Find simple assessments and exercises to evaluate your relationship.
     *Learn the best strategies to create a mutually satisfying marriage.

AUTHORS: Dr. Tony Ferretti is a licensed psychologist specializing in helping professionally successful clients with relationship problems. Dr. Ferretti holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of New York at Albany and received his PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Peter Weiss is physician and health care executive with a passion for helping others to physical and emotional health. Dr. Weiss holds bachelor of arts and doctor of arts and doctor of medicine degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.

MY REVIEW: This is an excellent book that will help achievers and connectors to build a marriage that lasts. But it is more than that. This book is valuable for anybody that wants better relationships, married or single. I was a senior minister for forty-seven years and did a lot of counseling. I wasn't very good at it and often referred those I counseled with to seek out professional counseling. I wish I had read this book back then. I needed it not only to help me with counseling but with all of my relationships.

I was impressed that Ferretti and Weiss included God in the advice they gave. They brought Him in carefully and gracefully. At the end of the book they very carefully invite the reader to come into a right relationship with God. This is good!

Both of these men are well qualified by training and experience. This book offers insight into the challenging relationship between achievers and connectors with tools to heal, nurture, and grow your marriage.

(I received this book from The Cadence Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Monday, December 29, 2014

We sing, "These are the special times...".

We seem to live for them. The special times. Christmas. Other holidays. Vacation times.

We live from peak event to peak event, from one bright moment to the next.

We don't know how to live in ordinary time---the in-between time.

WAITING is the in-between time.

Football season just ended. We are WAITING for baseball season to begin.

We seem to feel that life doesn't happen while we wait.

We don't know how to act in ordinary time, the in-between time.

We act like life isn't happening NOW---it's only happening in the future.

Life is calling for us to be in the moment, this season---now.

When we learn to wait we learn that life is packed in the MOMENT.

T. S. Eliot was right when he wrote that there is, "a lifetime burning in every moment."

We need to stop straining and struggling and simply let life unfold.

There is so much wonderful life packed in the MOMENT!


Friday, December 05, 2014

Wilbur M. Smith was one of my favorite professors at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

He had a library of 25,000 books. He always looked upon his library as a workshop.

When he walked into the classroom he would be carrying a stack of books. He would plop them down on the speaker's stand and then he would begin talking. And for the next hour I was held spellbound.
Early on in my education I had attended a class on the Old Testament. It put me to sleep! Wilbur Smith brought the Old Testament to life. I would run out of his class and drive straight to my little office at the church building and begin preparing a sermon. I couldn't wait to preach. I was on fire for God.

I decided I had to have many of the books Smith had in his library and talked about. I never had a goal of 25,000 but I did line my shelves with many good books. When I retired from full time preaching I disposed of fifteen cases of books. But I retained many volumes. On one wall in our family room is a built-in bookcase full of books. In my office closet, one wall of shelves is full and there are two other bookcases in there. Out in the office there are four bookcases full of books and books stacked on my study desk and my computer desk and on a stand by my reading chair.

Now, since the only messages I deliver are funeral messages I am slowly beginning to get rid of books I no longer need. I am doing so with mixed emotions. I am a little sad to see the valuable books go but I am making wonderful discoveries. I am discovering all over again great articles on vital topics. I not only have many hard back volumes but stacks of magazines that contain outstanding writing on every theological subject imaginable.

Just yesterday I picked up a magazine thinking that I would toss it and ended up reading and studying the articles for over an hour. Serendipity!

Another magazine that was on its way out the door has inspired some thoughts that I will be posting on my blog soon. The thoughts come from a sermon that William Willimon wrote for Pulpit Resource. I smiled when I read anew this message that I first read back in 1997. I thought to myself, "This is good stuff." Serendipity!

So I go on sorting through books and magazines. I do so no longer dreading the work. I do so with eager anticipation. I'm finding treasures that have been "buried" far too long.


The Japanese Art of Decluttering And Organizing
By Marie Kondo

OVERVIEW: Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you'll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo's clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). With detailed  guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo's newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home―and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

AUTHOR: Marie "KonMari" Kondo runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo helping clients transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. With a three-month waiting list, her KonMari Method of decluttering and organizing has become an international phenomenon. The Life-Changing Magic of tidying Up is a best seller in Japan, Germany, and the UK, with more than two million copes sold worldwide, and has been turned into a television drama for Japanese TV. She has been featured on more than thirty major Japanese television and radio programs and in the London times, the Sunday Times, Red magazine, and You magazine, among others.

MY REVIEW: Many books on decluttering have been written. And I have read most of them. This one is the best! That's not to say that I agree with everything Kondo has to say on the subject. But I do agree with almost all of it and I think this is a great book.

When I first saw the title I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the book. Tidying up is a term I am familiar with but not one that I use very often. And I wasn't too sure about the Japanese art of decluttering because I really didn't know anything about it. Even now, I'm not sure if Kondo is really describing a method that can be described as a Japanese method or if it is just her method and she happens to be Japanese. It doesn't matter either way. This is a book that you need to read if you are interested in decluttering.

Kondo had my attention from the first chapter or section, Why can't I keep my house in order? to the last, The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life. If you are seriously interested in this subject, you will not want to put the book down. Marie Kondo makes the claim that she is showing how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever. Is that true? Maybe! Yes, I think it just might be.

(I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Ever Happened To The Good News
By Phillip Yancey

OVERVIEW: In his landmark book What's So Amazing about Grace?, Phillip Yancey issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs. He now returns to this vital subject, asking why Christians continue to lose respect, influence, and reputation in our modern culture. Yet people everywhere still thirst for grace. How can Christians present truly Good News amid the changing landscapes of our time? Why do so many people dislike Christians? How can we communicate faith in an appealing way to future generations? Using his trademark journalistic style―story-filled, compelling, accessible―Yancy explores how grace can bridge the gap between Christian faith and a world increasingly suspicious of it.

AUTHOR: Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and  The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado.

MY REVIEW: I agree with Max Lucado who said, "Every Philip Yancey book is worth reading. He is a gift to our generation." This book is one of his best. I also agree with Shane Claiborne who wrote, "There's not much I'd rather read about than grace. And there's no one I' rather have tell me about it than Philip Yancey."

In this book Yancey does a splendid job of telling why the church stirs up negative feelings and then he counters the bad news. He spends much of his time relating stories about how too many Christians make bad news out of the good news. And then he tells stories and gives many examples of how Christians can and are making a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need.

This is an important book that every Christian needs to read. Yancey does a good job of helping us to see what the world would look like if Christians fulfilled the command to "See to it that no one misses the grace of God."

(I received this book from the Booklook program in exchange for a fair and honest review.)


Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Much Prayer Should A Hamburger Get? is the title of an excellent little book of articles on prayer compiled by William J. Krutza and the title of an article in the book written by Eliot J. Carey.

I received the book years ago from friends who wrote these words inside the cover: "Clif, I know you like to read. We enjoyed this so thought we'd get you a copy, hope you enjoy it too. In Christian love, The Overturfs, P.S. Thanks for your terrific lessons!"

I'm going to quote several passages from Carey's article that express how I also feel about saying grace every time we open our mouths for food.

"Saying grace every time we open our mouths for food is a ritual that needs clarification. I know some people who consider it virtually a denial of the faith if they fail to bow their heads and mumble a few words before eating, whether in private, in public, or in the home of a friend."

"Ritualism in saying grace confronts us with all kinds of problems. Obviously we do not pray over all forms of sustenance, else we have sinned at the water cooler and the kitchen tap for years. Nothing is more essential to the body than water---unless it be air, and you can see the problem that raises---but I know of no one, however devout he may be, who prays at the drinking fountain in the park. We also have confession to make over a sizable backlog of Lifesavers, breath mints, salted peanuts, and licorice allsorts, all of which contain frightening amounts of nourishment."

"So we are faced with the problem of classification. Does food rate grace because of its quantity? Or its price? Or the time of day when it is eaten? If one eats a doughnut with coffee at 10:00 A.M. without grace, is one obliged to pray over a sandwich and coffee at noon? If the sandwich is classified as lunch, it requires prayer, because surely one must give thanks for one's meal."

I find the Bible is strangely silent on the topic of saying grace. There is no instruction that I know of for saying grace. I consider the Lord's Supper and Christ's prayer before feeding the multitudes highly special occasions. I do believe the Bible teaches us to always be in the spirit of prayer and I am. I am gratefull for many things and tell God so. Food is one of those things and I thank God for it often---but not just when I am eating. I believe that praying before meals is a good thing but should not be done as a ritual.

I have a copy of Norman Rockwell's painting, in which the old lady and the young child bow their heads and fold their hands in the diner. totally and completely unaware of the glances of onlookers, they say their grace in unaffected sincerity. This is a picture of two people saying in their hearts, "Thank you, God, for everything." With that kind of public grace there can be no fault. But if I feel compelled to do it because others expect it and are looking, then I might need to consider my motive.